The Cairo correspondent of two French media outlets, the newspaper La Croix and the radio station RTL, Pigaglio was refused entry on landing at Cairo airport on 23 May although he has been based in Cairo since August 2014 and his visa and his Egyptian press card were both valid.
After being held for 30 hours in the airport’s international area without being questioned or given any explanation, he was put on a flight back to France last night. The French embassy intervened on his behalf, but to no avail.
“We urge the authorities to explain why this journalist was denied entry,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Given the circumstances, everything suggests that this was designed to intimidate all the foreign correspondents based in Cairo. It is a very worrying signal for the foreign media, to say the least.”
Pigaglio’s passport and phone were confiscated shortly after he presented himself to immigration police in the airport. Before his phone was taken, he managed to send a message to fellow French journalists in Cairo reporting what was happening. They sounded the alarm while at the same time criticizing the Egyptian government’s growing harassment of both Egyptian and foreign media.
A foreign reporter in Cairo told RSF that what had happened to Pigaglio was unprecedented. “A foreign correspondent whose papers were in order has never been turned back until now,” the reporter said.
Ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Egypt is the world’s fourth biggest prison for journalists, after China, Eritrea and Iran.